Monday, November 15, 2010


There is no delight the equal of dread.

So begins the opening paragraph of a pivotal short story from the myriad of tales presented in Clive Barker's ground-breaking collection Books of BloodDread, a harrowing excursion into the nature of fear, stood out from others in the pantheon.  

Many years later we finally have a film adaptation from the funhouse that yielded semi-successful outings including Rawhead Rex, Candyman, Lord of Illusions, Book of Blood and The Midnight Meat Train. And it could not come at a more pertinent time. With the expansion of the splatter-porn field now firmly entrenched in the scaffold of the genre, I feel the original architects of such tales deserve their voice to be heard before we become swamped in a mire of imitation and unsympathetic translations lacking metaphor. Although shocking in tone, Clive Barker’s tiny tale of Quaid and his philosophical relationship with the ‘Beast’ of fear is somewhat loftier than the usual horrors.    

Jackson Rathbone plays Stephen Grace, a University cinema student who becomes acquainted with Quaid - a similar individual with a potent story from a past detailing horrific events: Stephen does not drive a vehicle after his sibling died at the wheel, and Quaid is still reeling from being a child witness to his parent’s dismemberment. Already, we are seeing elements deviate from the original story – subtle changes at fist but still keeping with the overall milieu. Quaid then proposes research into people’s fears for their first thesis, and soon they are joined by fellow-student Cheryl, there to document everything on camera. What follows is a character-driven descent into psychological terror with some gut-wrenching scenes.

Initially, I thought the restrained changes (and in particular the casting of Shaun Evans as Quaid) would hinder the build-up. This Quaid feels far too innocent and simple: gone is the dark charisma that made this expert manipulator so enticing. But as the narrative unfolds, Evans begins to exhibit all the distinctive traits needed to flesh out the character. Then, we face the conundrums associated with role-playing our fears … does staring into the eyes of the Beast for long enough finally grant revelation?

Writer/Director Anthony DiBlasi has worked recently on other Barker projects, and the final product of this small-budget outing is ultimately as slick and unnerving as anything released by a major studio. The tone has been honored; the material given a kind of dark reverence showcasing both an understanding of Dread tempered with the need for a clever rearrangement. While not containing the dark grandiosity of previous endeavors such as Lord
of Illusions
 or Candyman, Dread still manages to find its own shadowy niche in the legendary resume of Clive Barker.